Chef Paul Cressend, Jr. admits that receiving an email on March 17 notifying him he was terminated from his job was traumatic. But he wasn’t alone.
His co-workers at Isa’s French Bistro in the Haywood Park Hotel received the same email, and thousands of others in Asheville’s hospitality industry were simultaneously hearing similar bad news on the heels of state mandated dining room shutdowns in response to COVID-19. Being fired, it was explained, was the legal first step to immediately filing for unemployment.
Thanks to Ben’s Friends, the program founded in 2016 by Charleston, S.C., restaurateurs Mickey Bakst and Steve Palmer that offers group support to hospitality industry workers struggling with substance abuse and addiction, he was also not alone when it came to maintaining his two-plus years of sobriety in the face of such a blow.
In fact, as one of the leaders of the Asheville Ben’s Friends chapter that launched last summer, Cressend wants everyone to know that while the organization has asked chapters not to gather in person, the weekly meetings will still take place Tuesdays at 11 a.m., but are moving online to Zoom. (For more on the chapter’s formation, see “Ben’s Friends Asheville supports restaurant workers coping with substance abuse,” Aug. 1, 2019, Xpress.)
It’s not necessary to be a member of Ben’s Friends to attend the virtual meetings. Information on how to access them can be found via the Asheville F&B Tribe page on Facebook at avl.mx/714. For more details about Ben’s Friends, visit bensfriendshope.com.
“Losing a job disconnects you from your people,” says Cressend. “Maintaining connections is key to being healthy.”